Julian Cope at The Fleece, Bristol 9.2.20
It’s 38 years since I first saw Julian Cope. A fair bit of water has flowed under our respective bridges in that time. I wonder if he’s altered much? Yup….OK, I’ve gone grey but you win Julian…
Yes, once fresh faced Julian, of 80s Liverpool popsters Teardrop Explodes, has clearly moved on….but fear not, he still gives time to some ‘Teardrop’ sounds.
Teardrop Explodes on The Old Grey Whistle Test – Reward – from way back when: https://youtu.be/Me8koyuX4YE
It was 6 February 1982 at Birmingham Odeon when I first saw Mr Cope, in Teardrop Explodes. A mate from college (Mish) had acquired some free passes for the gig which got us in and meant we could wander about, but not backstage – ‘all areas’ bit was crossed out. This didn’t stop us getting asked outside if we could get people ‘to meet Julian’ and feeling generally pleased with ourselves. If I remember rightly this freebie came via the student union events team…students eh!
Move on a decade and I recall the solo Cope at The Tic Toc Club in Coventry, with my then Earlson, Cov. mate Chris (CMe). With some Setlist prompting this was April 1991. Cope was wearing a skirt. I don’t suppose I’d bat an eyelid now, but I remember that. I’d started to go grey…and was buying CDs instead of cassettes – we were maturing, each in our own way.
Set list, Coventry ’91: https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/julian-cope/1991/the-tic-toc-club-coventry-england-53c0174d.html
This was around the time of the modestly titled ‘Saint Julian’ album which I now think sounds loads better to me than it did then.
Cope played at Pheonix and Reading Festivals in the 90s but despite some Google line-up memory jogging I can’t 100% recall if I was at the right stage at the right time, or indeed the right day as certainly for Reading, in that period, I was more of a day ticket visitor.
The Fleece, Bristol
Scroll forward 25 years and it’s Bristol for a Sunday night Cope gig at The Fleece. A short walk over the river from the heart of the old town, in Storm Ciara – I know ‘they’ said only essential journeys – it is Julian Cope after all.
On a February night the Fleece’s entrance is not exactly obvious, but welcoming security staff give the game away.
The Fleece is a grade two listed building – once a sheep trading market in the 1800s. The capacity is 450 standing. The stone floor is like a medieval street underfoot. Iron pillars, two rows near the front and one across the middle keep the ceiling up. While they can get in the view, it adds to the historic feel.
A great selection of posters adorn the walls with the ‘tunnel’ to the toilets being a virtual art gallery of previous and upcoming gigs.
I’ve only been here once before, Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg last year, but I like the place. Good bar with some decent Bath Ales options and not much waiting time, with a good value can fridge option also, on the opposite side.
Support: Tom Hickox
Perhaps an unexpected choice for a Julian Cope support act – quite conventional but a well received singer songwriter, with keyboards. Top drawer.
Songs were introduced with some context from Tom, revealing the passion. Highly listenable on a first hearing… and people listened.
Cope takes the Stage
I was expecting more madness..no… thoughtful, witty introductions to put his work in context. He needed to be the ‘almost solo’ act. That’s what he wanted and that’s what the audience appreciated.
Early notable numbers included ‘Autogeddon Blues’ and ‘Greatness and Imperfection of Love’. He started to refer to the ‘Ba Na Na Na Naaa’ songs…. the Teardrop material, but he’s still proud of it and sings it like a choir boy still – great voice and diction. The first is ‘Passionate Friend’.
It is Cope… with guitar. There is a keyboard. A bass and player appear..but this is Cope….and the audience of 50 something guys are here to concentrate, listen and ‘worship’. No mindless chatter.
‘Great Dominions’ was another corker, from Teardrop’s ‘Kilimanjaro’.
Cope mentioned his new album ‘Civil War’ and explained how the album reflected on a country which had become a place where Nazis had vegan kids and the related internal conflicts at large these days. Thoughtful man, without obvious mainstream Politics being spat at us.
Sporting an US Airforce cap, as a nod (or jibe) to his American father-in-law, Cope grabbed us. Pretend encores included ‘Treason’ and ‘Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed’…an anthem clearly.
Saint Julian – what a fabulous example of English individuality…I’d say eccentricity but is it for me to say that? Perhaps I will read one of his books first.
I toddled off happy, to The Old Duke for one more pint.
A great illustration of the fact I am a gig goer with a pocket camera, not ‘a photographer’. When the light works, snap. In the right place, snap, but not much scope for variety at a one man show….but evidence that ‘I was there’.